By: Yasmeen Ali
Operation Geronimo: the betrayal and execution of Osama bin Laden and its aftermath --Brig. Shaukat Qadir - : Published by H.A Publications, Lahore, 2012. 278 pages.
Osama Bin Laden was purportedly killed by US Navy Seals on 2nd May 2011 in Abbottabad. This book is an attempt to put together the jigsaw puzzle that eventually led to his death. The narration is an organized attempt to put the facts together with intellectual honesty. Where the jigsaw puzzle does not fit in, there are shrewd deductions to connect the missing dots. The picture slowly but gradually emerges, from the mist of confusion of how Osama Bin Laden trekked to Islamabad and how his lair was uncovered, leading to the fateful day when he met his Maker.
The book is racy, spellbinding, and reads like a thriller and impossible to put down once started. You may or may not concur with the final analysis that it was the wife No 1 jealous of the youngest wife whom Osama was bedding that gave him away but one cannot deny the clarity of facts involved within, discussed by the author.
The book does mention the role played by Dr Shakil Afridi in running a phony polio-drive campaign to collect DNA samples for the CIA to pinpoint Osama's stowaway. US have consistently called for the release of Dr Afridi, who is believed to have helped the CIA in pinpointing Osama bin Laden's hideout in the garrison town of Abbottabad. The US Senate went so far as allowing a proposed bill to be placed on its calendar for hearing that subjects payment of millions of dollars in counterinsurgency funds for Pakistan to the release of Dr Afridi among other conditions. Qadir recounts that Afridi was a Medical Superintendent at the Khyber Agency, later sacked for inefficiency and recruited by CIA. He writes, "He was initially told to run a fake campaign for testing people's blood to find out who was suffering from hepatitis. He was told to start this campaign in February/March 2011 (at about the same time that Khairee, OBL's eldest wife, arrived in Abbottabad) and was told to focus on Bilal Town and Nawan Shehr area."
A lot of missing dots are connected here by Brig. Shaukat Qadir and they make an absorbing read. The mention of Al-Libi for instance. By 2004 Al-Libi was a high-priority target for the ISI since he was suspected of masterminding the attacks on Gen Musharaf in December 2003, then COAS-President and how he fits into Osama bin Laden's saga. Many other characters are introduced, the knowledge of whom was hitherto unknown to the general public.
Questioning how a big house of Osama and the residents within escaped the attention of the locals and the authorities alike for a fairly long period of time, Qadir writes," No one was familiar with Abu Ahmed Al-Kuwaiti's real name, nor the other identity, Arshad Khan, that he had acquired; most certainly not as Ibrahim, his real name. Furthermore, he changed his appearance; got rid of his neck-length hair, his flowing moustache, and trimmed his beard. He looked nothing like the photograph of AlKuwaiti that was available with the ISI or the CIA.
"When he purchased the land in Bilal Town, Abbottabad, and started construction, the MI/ISI detachments conducted a routine inquiry and there seemed nothing suspicious. A routine purchase of land by a Pashtun who liked privacy, was sufficiently wealthy to afford a large(ish) house with high boundary walls, living with his brother and some members of his family. Everything was routine, on the face of things and, while a weather eye was kept open for any unusual occurrence; by mid-2006, everybody had settled into and accepted the routine."
Qadir painstakingly traces the moving of Osama bin Laden to Islamabad, details of the house, the raid and the connections. He opines that CIA probably started following the track in Abbottabad only in 2010/11 after a lead was provided by the ISI. He writes, "However, according to CIA's own version, all they were certain of, even as the raid was launched, was that there was "a high value target housed in the compound, possibly OBL!"
Interestingly, when the house was searched later, after the raid, there were no medicines for any kidney problems. Osama bin Laden was widely believed to have been undergoing dialysis, for a medical situation moving towards kidney failure.
The book details the layout of the rooms, who was residing where, the details of how the raid by the SEALS was conducted in the minutest detail-yet manages to keep the narrative gripping readers' attention.
He is completely honest in stating where facts are not available and where his opinions are based on conjecture deducing, very shrewdly, if I may add, from the picture emerging.
However, the book does not end here. Qadir moves from this milestone towards commenting most succinctly on its implications on Pak-US relations. He connects the dots again, patiently and with a clear eye on ground realities; from Operation Geronimo to Memogate to US Congressional Committee having announced its conclusion that, "the US should support the Baloch in their movement for independence". The US is insistent on hammering the point in: target: Pakistan!
He states damningly, "It's a country of 180 million people, it has a huge standing army (which means a huge store of munitions of war) and, it has a strategic location, because of which, its destabilization will reverberate, not only in South Asia, but all the way north to Central Asia and Iran to the Middle East. That is precisely the reason why Pakistan must be destabilized or balkanized; as proposed by the Congressional Committee; its location. A poisoned chalice!"
The sequence of events is admirable. The narration worthy of the finest novelist. The factual layout logical and reveals a sharp mind. In a nutshell, the book without question; adds to a better understanding of Operation Geronimo and its cascading effect on the now bitterer relationship between Pakistan & US.